Challenge,  On Writing

Forgot One Thing… Writing

That’s Right, But Not Really Forgot…

Just left it out of that massive list of things starting the first part of the year.

Writing is the most important thing, and for the first time in going on 50 years, I did not have an open lane to write as much or as little as I want starting the first of the year.

Back in late October, I injured my one good eye and was basically blind for a couple of days which was damned scary.

Turns out is is something that happens, has no cause (unless you are coming down with MS), and has no treatment. Basically the eyesight in most people who this hits come back from 2 to 6 months. And it usually only hits in one eye, but it hit my only good eye.  It has been two months and it is slowly getting better, but reading is still tough and to do this blog or any letter to anyone, I blow my screen up to Easy Reader size print.

So to make writing important, I started a writing streak on January 1st. That streak amount was going to take me a lot of time for a reason I will explain shortly. So I set a minimum of 250 words per day. I have only stopped one night at that low number, slowly gaining speed on a Cold Poker Gang novel.

So why is this so hard? For a reason I did not ever expect. Those of you who have listened to me talk about stages of a writer will understand this instantly. This barely being able to see shoved me back into paying attention to the words instead of the story I was writing.

The words.

When I sat down at my writing computer before this, I never saw the words I was typing. I was living in the story, with the characters, enjoying my romp through their world. Just like I was reading a book, that’s how I typed.

I would see manuscripts as pages, pacing as how it looked on the screen, and so much more.

Suddenly,  I have to blow up my screen so large that all I see is about 20% of the words I normally see at a glance, and I found myself because not being able to type well focusing on typos and all that stage one and stage two stuff beginning writers focus on,

I couldn’t drop down into the story.

To say I was angry and worried would be an understatement.

But over the last few nights I found myself again back in the story with the characters and not even noticing the monster words on the screen. Rough each night starting, but it will get easier I am sure, and I hope my eyes return to normal at some point.

And the plan is to pick up speed as I can shrink the font on the screen.

So I recorded and started THE DECADE AHEAD, BITE-SIZED COPYRIGHT, ADVANCE PACING, and GHOST COLLECTION CLASS, plus the regular workshops for January and other collection classes. They all got started yesterday. ( )

And I built and started a new Kickstarter campaign that is doing great and before 24 hours was up had funded and hit two stretch goals and got a “Project We Love” from Kickstarter.

But the most important stuff I did every day for the past days was start a writing streak, working on a new novel. Back in late October, I flat didn’t think that would be possible.





  • Harvey Stanbrouigh

    Excellent, Dean. Glad you’re able to get started writing again. And great note on making the writing (not the story) important. I tell others, if you’re a writer THAT you write is important, not WHAT you write. And good on you watching the word counts build again. I’m pulling for you.

    After writing 13 novels in the first 7 months of 2021, I had a forced 13 month hiatus as I waited for my brain to un-scramble. It finally did, and in the last 3 months of 2022 I wrote 5 novels and am currently on my first novel for 2023. But just now getting back to my normal pace of 3000 words per day of publishable fiction.

    • dwsmith

      Great to hear, Harvey. You are correct, writing is what is important.

      I sure found it interesting that because of having how I write jarred, I reverted back two levels of writer to focusing on the words instead of the story. It felt awful, to be honest.

  • T Thorn Coyle

    I’m so glad you figured out a way to write under your current conditions!

    When my brain injury got so bad I couldn’t do any screen time, I worked around it with a combo of dictation and using a $40 Alphasmart Neo I bought on eBay. The Neo didn’t allow me to get down into the words at all, because the screen is so tiny and dim. All it allows is typing forward.

    That combination is not my favorite, but kept me writing. We figure it out. And it assured me that should something that bad ever happen again–please no–I’ll find a way.

    And hopefully the figuring it out helps other people figure it out when conditions are set to stall them, too.

    Thanks for the update.

  • Charlotte

    Dean, I’m happy to read that your eye is getting better. I’m curious to know, have you thought about dictation? I know it’s not the same process at all. You can’t cycle the way you do with typing, for one. Obviously it’s even worse for checking your pacing by just looking at the page. And then, when you get your audio converted into text, it’s riddled with alien typos that are a pain to fix, so the critical brain gets crazy. But you could get someone else to fix them for you. Not worth the investment for a couple of months, I suppose.
    I’m still not sure I’m the same person in audio and in keyboard, but when telling stories into a microphone, you do get dragged down into them pretty fast. And I think you can dictate clean, somehow.
    Well. if you ever used it, I’d be interested to know how you’d do that.

    • dwsmith

      Tried over the years a number of times. Just can’t get into the story. Stuck in the words. Anything that makes me focus on the words kills story telling for me.

  • allynh

    Yes! That’s the best example of word vs Story.

    There was a reading app years ago, where they force you to see only one word at a time. They then slowly increased the speed at which they show each new word.

    They claimed that by doing that it would increase your reading speed.

    All it did was make me queasy.

  • Sheila

    It makes sense that you had trouble getting into the story. Changing up font size, page size, font or whatever is one of the ways advised to break the brain out so it can see the words. In your case, that’s not what you wanted, but you adapted.

    I admire how well you adapt throughout the issues you’ve had over the past few years. It sets a good example for the rest of us! Continued good wishes for your vision and yours and Kris’ health in general.

    • Rob Cornell

      I wonder if the opposite would help writers get out of the words. Zoom way out so you can see the shape of the words on the page but not easily getting caught up in individual words.

      I might have to be my own guinea pig and give it a try. 🤔

      • dwsmith

        I think if you did that at regular intervals, any writer would be helped. Sort of like holding a mass market paperback page at arms length. You could tell at a glance if the action on that page was slow, normal, or fast.

  • Hope

    I really appreciate this blog, Dean! For the past year or so, I’ve had limited function in one of my hands. I’m working with doctors to get it sorted out, but it’s definitely difficult and frustrating trying to continue to write with a physical impairment. It’s definitely made it easier to see the words and fall into the trap of making the writing important since it’s likely I’ll only be able to get out a limited number of words each day, or having to stop to rest when the creative voice really gets going.

    It’s nice to know that even someone who has been doing this as long as you struggles at times to adjust to these new challenges. I hope you get your vision back soon and that the writing continues to be fun.